A Paper Tiger or a Pugnacious Prime Minister?

In the Parliamentary encounter between PM Lee Hsien Loong and the Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang, it was obvious that PM Lee was trying to use his more formidable prime minister position to overwhelm and in the process humiliate Mr. Low. But little did PM Lee realise that he had underestimated the pugnacity of Mr. Low who had been able to put up a sterling resistance to each and every one of his ineffectual attempt to put Mr. Low in a fluster.

Every time PM Lee questioned Mr. Low about the so-called lapses of the WP on political issues such as the Population White Paper, he had expected Mr. Low to crumble and not be able to provide a rational defence of the WP’s stand on the issue. Credit must be given to Mr. Low for his quick and nimble retorts which must have baffled the conceited PM Lee of Mr. Low’s leadership quality as chief of the WP whose eloquence can easily match that of the Cambridge-trained PM Lee. It was obvious that as the debate progressed PM Lee found to his dismay that he could not outsmart the astute Mr. Low and he ended by alluding to WP in having to call a spade a spade, a clear indication of his frustration, especially his failure to corner Mr. Low to concede that WP had flip-flopped over the Population White Paer debate.

It was an intellectual tussle delightful to watch if it were not for the belligerent and intimidating style of the inexorable PM Lee in presenting his arguments which may give credence to Mr. Low’s assertion of a PAP bullying political culture. PM Lee could be imagining himself to be a ravaging tiger waiting to pounce on an unwary prey which to his utter horror turned out to be a ferocious lion. PM Lee could have adopted a more humorous and humane style which could have won him more sympathy from the audience. He claimed himself to be “flame-proof”.

Can the WP be faulted for its apparent perfunctory attitude towards the President’s Address outlining the PAP programme? The answer probably lies in the perception of Singaporeans on the status of the present minority President. But the WP is not disrespectful to the President, his shortcoming notwithstanding.

As an independent political party with a considerable representation in Parliament, the WP is entitled to interpret its version of constructive politics and it is really up to the electorate to say whether it is credible and acceptable. So there is really no need for PM Lee to be so worked up to denigrate the WP for its position on this issue unless it is done purely to score a political point. It would be better for his public image if PM Lee curbs his impetuosity to fix the opposition, especially the so-called recalcitrant WP leaders, even if they are a threat to PAP’s ambitions in GE 2016.

Yoong Siew Wah

About Yoong Siew Wah:

Mr Yoong is the former Director of Internal Security Department (ISD) from 1971-1974.

The ISD is a domestic intelligence agency of Singapore. It has the utmost right to detain without trial individuals suspected to be a threat to national security. Its stated mission is to confront and address security threats, including international terrorism, foreign subversion and espionage. The ISD also monitors and addresses potential threats from communism, prevention of racial tension which might affect the public peace, domestic counterterrorism, international counterterrorism, fraud against the state, surveillance, apprehension of suspected militants or terrorists and protection of Singapore’s national borders.

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